Gingerbread's tips to help single parents navigate back to school
We know that the summer holidays can be a challenging time for single parents but as August draws to a close, we also know that while September and going back to school will be a welcome return to normality and routine for many of you, it can also bring its own stresses.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to preparing your children for going back to school, as it depends on their age, needs and preferences. Here are some of our top tips on getting your child (and you!) ready for the start of the new school term.
7 Tips to help you navigate back to school as a single parent:
1. Adjust your routines.
Start making small changes to your daily and bedtime routines a week before the start of school so everyone can ease gently into waking up on time and being organised. Set the alarm earlier each morning and encourage your child to pack a bag or lay out their clothes for the next day.
The night before the first day back, get lunch boxes planned, school bags packed and school clothes laid out, ready for the morning. Being prepared the night before the big day can help calm first day nerves for you all.
2. Stock up on supplies.
Do a uniform and school supplies check a week before the new term, you don’t want to find your child has had a growth spurt the night before the first day! At Gingerbread, we’re often asked if there is help with the cost of school uniform or PE kit.
a) If you live in England, it is becoming rarer to get financial support from councils. However, it is worth getting in touch with your local authority to see what help is available. You can also talk to your children’s school directly to ask for help. Some schools will let parents pay for uniform in instalments or have second-hand uniform sales.
b) If you live in Wales and are on a low income or receive certain benefits, you can claim up to £200 to help with school uniform costs.
3. Check which benefits you are entitled to.
Even if you’ve checked before, the rules around claiming benefits may have changed so it is worth checking again. If you claim a benefit such as Universal Credit, then you might be able to claim free school meals. There are different processes if you live in England or Wales. All children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 also get free school meals at state schools in England.
4. Discuss your child’s worries.
The first day of school can be particularly hard for kids going to school for the first time (and for those going back for the last time) so it can be helpful to talk through your child’s school day, including how they will travel to and from school, before they start so they know what to expect and how their new routine will work. You could ask your child how they are feeling about going to school and encourage them to talk through any worries or concerns they have, helping them. Often, just voicing a worry can make it feel a lot less scary.
5. Give yourself some ‘me time.’
You need time as well to adjust to the change in routine, particularly if you’re feeling worried about your child going to school. Give yourself time to focus on your wellbeing - we have a number of resources available on our website or invite a friend/parent over for a cuppa after the school run for a chat.
6. Let your child’s school know about any changes at home.
If you have recently become separated, it’s important to let your child’s school know. After parental separation, school may be a source of continuity and stability for your child. Our charity partner amicable has produced a guide on how to talk to your child’s school about your separation.
7. It’s OK if it doesn’t all go to plan.
It can take a while to find a routine that works for you and your child. Remember, you’re not alone - join the Gingerbread community and chat to other single parents going through the same experiences as you.
You can listen to Gingerbread's discussion with Co-founder of amicable, Kate Daly about child maintenance in The Divorce Podcast.